We are so blessed to live in a country where we are free to worship God and to celebrate Christmas. We recognise the privilege of living in a country where Christmas is recognised as a Christian celebration…
but this year we have struggled more with the issues surrounding Christmas than ever before.
The challenge for us at Christmas has been – how to glorify God in all we do and teach our children to do the same – while not falling for the “spiritualised worldliness” of Christmas but also not offending those He loves and wanting to be a witness and blessing to others. Here is a list of some of the changes we have made and thoughts on the matter – in no particular order.
This year at Christmas time we:
* find many of the Christmas “traditions” unacceptable for us – most of all the focus on “lots of presents for us all”. This year we all found such joy in carefully preparing gifts to give away to some in need, carefully making or buying something simple for each other, staying away from shops and building special traditions that mostly revolved around discovering from God’s Word together and from history more about God’s awesome plan unfolding on the earth.
* threw out most Christmas carols but kept and taught the children the special ones – Hark the Herald Angels, Joy to the World, While Shepherds watched their flocks – songs that tell the story Biblically – nothing that made Jesus seem like a weak little baby but those that spoke of victory and of God’s providence. We told the children stories of the skies filled with angels – not sweet little girl angels, but powerful warrior angels from the throne of the Almighty, maybe Michael, Gabriel, the same angels that later rolled that huge stone away from the tomb of Christ – celebrating his birth, the glory the majesty, the chorus filling the sky with light and music, voices raised in triumph, delight and excitement at seeing God’s awesome plan unfolding!
* didn’t do a Christmas tree but we did do the Jesse tree for the first time. We printed the pictures representing prophesies or lineage of Christ, each child cut and coloured their own and decorated them. Hubby and sons made a wooden “tree” thing and we hung them up each day as we read the scriptures that go with the pictures.
* didn’t do Christmas stockings. The children each saved up to buy a small gift for one of their siblings and they each made a little gift for another sibling – felt food, dolls house accessories, folder of pictures to colour – were on the list. These were so special and so meaningful.
* each week we read the scriptures and lit the advent candles (prophecy candle, Bethlehem candle, shepherds candle, angels candle and Christ’s candle)
* had a special thanksgiving meal and service on the eve of the 23rd where we sang carols and read scriptures that told the story. We also learnt some of the Bible prophecies as our memory verses during December.
* focused on the majesty and divinity of Christ. We talked about how Christ is no longer a babe in a manger but the risen Christ come in power, conquerer of sin and death, Immanuel – God with us, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. We talked about which parts of the story are Biblical and which are not. I’m not so sure that God looks at the little nativity plays in the churches and thinks.. “Aw.. cute” I think he probably looks at them and thinks sadly “what are you teaching those children!” If we look at the verses in scripture: a stable, an innkeeper saying “sorry we are full”, a cow… none of these things appear. We wanted the glorious reality of the story as the Bible tells it.
* wanted to bless those in our extended family so gifted them and celebrated with them.
* gave away our fake flashy Christmas tree and decorations as they didn’t seem to serve much purpose or add much. What we did was awesome and special and had real fruit in our children’s lives.
There was much wrestling in our hearts with the implications of a worldly Christmas (santa claus has been out for a couple of years but this year we questioned everything about Christmas). Scott Brown has a wonderful series on his blog The 12 days of Christmas where he references many articles from respected men past and present and their view on Christians “celebrating’ Christmas – there are articles for and against… under the following heading.
(What about Christmas? Ponder through the Twelve Days of Christmas series and test each of them by the Word of God.)
Day 1: Sermon by Charles Spurgeon
Day 3: XMAS by A.W. Pink
Day 4: John Piper
Day 5: George Whitefield
Day 6: Brian Schwertly
Day 11: The Puritans on Christmas
Day 12.3: What Roman Catholics Say About Christmas
Day 12.4: Christmas And The Use of Time
I have included an excerpt that my husband wrote on the same topic as he has a way with words that I definitely don’t – also gives a different perspective.
We have decided to do / not do the following:
Santa and anything relating to him is out (obviously) – while we believe this is a season to really bless others and give to those in need we may do that through soup kitchens, cards, blessings to widows and orphans, etc. not through Christmas stockings, St Nick, little red hats or even “snow” scenes – here in hot balmy Cape Town.
We will still celebrate Christmas. This may sound strange but before we were not aware of the origins of Christmas as clearly as we are now aware. We weren’t aware of the connection to Nimrod as the father of religion, the… In a way we would like to dissasociate ourselves with the “Christmas” of the world today which is not glorifying to God – but it is very hard to do that without perhaps pushing people further from God instead of drawing them closer to him – so instead we will try to honour God in what we do.
We will wholeheartedly celebrate the coming of our Saviour to the earth and the unfolding of God’s sovereign plan in history. We will focus on the coming of the Saviour more than the fact that the “baby” is born.
Christ is no longer a baby – he is a risen Saviour, he is God with us. The significance of the baby Jesus is the miraculous birth – the seed of God and we can learn from the obedience and submission of Mary to God’s will – but Christmas carols like “Away in a Manger” can tend to show Christ the baby in the wrong way. I keep thinking how do children see it. Why the little baby… We shouldn’t celebrate the birth of Christ in isolation but rather celebrate the life of Christ and the coming of our saviour – the significance of it in our lives.
We will do the Jesse tree because of the value of learning more about the lineage and prophecies of Christ. Each day the children colour in an shape, put it on a backing and we hang it on a little “tree” from our garden, then Daddy reads the scriptures and talks about it.
It was the first Christmas when I felt closer to God rather than further from Him afterwards.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9 v 6